Opinion: FA Cup Prize Money Disparity Must be Addressed

Women's FA Cup trophy.

The Women’s FA Cup is set to return to action this weekend after its postponement due to Covid-19. Eight teams are to battle it out for a place in the semi-finals. The victorious sides will each receive a grand total of £4,000.

However, if these sides were male, they’d be earning £720,000 each.

Pay Parity on the International Stage 

In early September, the Brazilian Football Confederation announced that it had introduced pay parity for the men and women’s teams. A mere matter of hours later, the English FA also confirmed that equal pay had been in place since January.

“The FA pays its women’s players exactly the same as their male counterparts for representing England, both in terms of match fees and match bonuses,” the statement read.

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Some questioned the timing of the FA’s announcement. Despite being in place for nine months, the FA only announced it after the CBF had done so.

Yet, others commended the FA’s somewhat muted attitude towards the decision. They suggested it created an atmosphere of ‘normality’ around the subject of pay parity in men and women’s football.

The Bleak Reality on Home Soil

Pay parity on the international stage marks a huge step forward for greater equality in women’s football in England. However, the reality on home soil remains bleak.

Placing the FA Cup prize money under a microscope reveals shocking figures. Such numbers hardly mirror the commitment to greater equality promised by the FA.

The total prize money in the Men’s FA Cup is £30,264,000. This compares to a minute £309,335 in the women’s competition.

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In fact, more prize money is awarded to the winners of the Extra Preliminary Round in the Men’s FA Cup (£414,000) than the entire prize earnings combined for the Women’s FA Cup. 

The most money a women’s team can earn in a continuous run in the FA Cup is £44,210. That’s winning from the Extra Preliminary Round to the Final.

A men’s team only has to reach the Fourth Qualifying Round to surpass this amount and earn £46,390.

Honouring Responsibility 

The FA ultimately have a responsibility to raise the profile and quality of women’s football in England. An honouring of this responsibility must involve a serious review of the FA Cup prize money.

Prize money makes an often unrecognised difference to the competition itself and to the teams involved. It would drive up the competitiveness of the competition.

Entering the Extra Preliminary Round, losing, and receiving only £75 would hardly cover the cost of match fees for most grassroot sides.

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Having a greater incentive to enter the competition and not fearing coming out of the other side out-of-pocket would undoubtedly increase playing standards.

This would also draw in greater crowds to matches. Spectators would be treated to a high-quality and competitive match. A huge financial benefit for the smaller teams. 

Additionally, it would cause a well-needed change to the status-quo. The WSL powerhouses — Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal — dominate the competition year in, year out due to their vast financial resources. As a result, we see these very teams reap the best (albeit few) benefits from the competition. 

What is Next for the FA Cup?

A £25,000 cheque awaits the winner on the 31 October. In August, Arsenal won the Men’s FA Cup and received £3,600,000. A mighty 144 times more than the eventual winners of the women’s competition.

The Extra Preliminary Rounds have already kicked off for the 2020/21 FA Cup. Discussions about reviewing prize money remain non-existent. It seems participating teams are in for another season of pay disparity.

There are options for the FA to pursue that can definitively address the issue. After all, they have shown that as the two England teams garner the same responsibility, they must garner the same pay cheque.

The longer teams must wait for this to become a reality in the Women’s FA Cup, the longer the widening gap between the top and bottom leagues will grow.

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